Steven Pinker has written extensively on swearing, and I'll point out a couple of the important parts. There are specific parts of the brain which produce language, and those parts are not necessarily responsible for swearing, which is more keyed into the parts of the brain which use emotion. So, calling someone a racial slur is typically an intellectual act, while saying a four letter word is an emotional one. Of course, one can use emotional words in an intellectual fashion to make a point, which is just good writing, using words which have meanings that can reach an audience.
I know, when someone cuts you up at a roundabout in their BMW, it's annoying, but it's never so annoying that one of the classic four-letter words is insufficient, and a new insult must be created out of two words used as insults only in recent times, is it?
Even words that are offensive have etymologies and social contexts that make them legitimate points for discussion on Wordie. While I have no intention of using a word like "gaytarded" because of its doubly offensive nature, I'm interested to know that it's a word that some people use in some contexts. It helps me shed some of my naivité.
Nigger is an extraordinarily offensive word to me. I can barely force myself to key it into this comment. But, it's necessary to use it sometimes to understand the context from which it comes. Fuck has that effect on some people--but we regularly discuss it in various contexts here.
We're on Wordie because words fascinate us. As long as we don't have the intent to offend with the words that we post, we should be able to discuss them with civility and respect. Barring that, we all have a phenomenal power that I like to call "skipping over the parts that you don't like." It works.
We can't just put our fingers in our ears, cover our eyes, and hope that the words we don't like go away. By talking about words we are able to analyze them, to understand what about a word gives it power. By shining light upon the darkness we can deprive it of that which scares us, we can dismantle the power it holds over us and we can move forward.
The simple act of talking about swear words or insults takes away a lot of their power. And of course, there are people who would take away niggardly and even black hole. The free exchange of words and ideas is a necessary thing.
People on this site who post words must learn that words DO have the power to hurt, to insult, to debase other people. Words do have those powers as every evil world leader has known through history. A debasing epithet can justify murder, can justify discrimination & harrassment of others, can justify holocausts.
When you place a word on a public site like this one, you are communicating with that word, you're intending that it be read by others.
So saying words are just symbols or inanimate, meaningless objects is to avoid the truth that words communicate with and impact others.
I see your point now seanahan, which I didn't before. I think this word effectively lampoons the indiscriminate use of gay and retarded by (mostly) children who don't know the meanings of those words and don't care. I think it would be funny used in that context, in a comedy skit. Like any word, context is crucial.
Seanahan, I believe you when you say you proposed the word "gaytarded" in an ironic way with the intention of lampooning the use of "gay" and "retarded" to mean "stupid," but that ironic intention was not clear in your original post, certainly not to me, or, it seems, to those others who proclaimed the word to be "brilliant", called you their hero, and added the word to their "cool insults" list (whose name has been changed to "favorite insults").
My response was not directed at you personally. It was directed at anyone who thinks such words are brilliant and cool. I tried to say that these words are "stupid, unimaginative, insulting, cruel, dimwitted, ignorant, juvenile, petty, pea-brained, and lame." These epithets were not aimed at you or indeed at any person. I readily admit that such words may be used, and even coined, ironically and playfully by clever, kind-hearted people who would never use them hurtfully. But the words themselves remain base and demeaning, and, in my opinion, are unworthy of being celebrated. To be clear, I have no objection to listing them or discussing them, only to rejoicing in them.
Since I didn't catch the irony in your original post (and on re-reading it, still do not, which may be my own thickheadedness), I did take issue in a more general way with your suggestion that such words are innocuous when they are not used literally (i.e. to ridicule homosexual or mentally limited people), and so as an example, and to drive the point home to you personally, I invented the word "seanahanic" and imagined using it in a derogatory way, so you would know how it felt, so to speak. But at the same time I did make a point of calling you "our friend", for that is how I think of you. And even while assuming that you meant what you had said (and were not being ironic), I was willing to consider this a forgivable lapse, arising perhaps from the understandable excitement of discovering, or even coining, a new word pregnant with possibilities.
Please accept my apologies for any hurt I may have caused you. As I explained, that string of doofus-related words was meant to describe the word you commented on, not you personally. There was nothing ad hominem coming from this homo (I am allowed to call myself that, but no one else can, at least not without my permission).
To take two terms that are often used pejoratively and combine them, and then claim that their power to offend has been diluted by that combination, isn't really effective. Ironic use notwithstanding. Though I recognize the good intentions, it's more likely that the term will come off as doubly offensive.
1. I totally missed the irony of your original post.
2. I posted a comment that, in hindsight, reads as a personal attack.
I do think that people who use "gaytarded" in an unironic way come off sounding like idiots. But I don't think you're an idiot -- in fact, I quite like you -- and I'm sincerely sorry that I implied otherwise.
A lot of vitriol on Wordie these past couple of days, and honestly, I'm a bit shocked. Words are not fundamental units, they are what we make of them. They have the power that we assign to them. The point of this word was to lampoon the use of gay and retarded to mean stupid, annoying, pointless, frustrating, etc. Taking two words in an ironic context and making a third which is not even a word to mean some sort of combination of the two perverted meanings.
The point of this word, of the use of words like this, is to force people to think about things that they either they haven't or don't want to think about. So I guess it's worked in part, because it has gotten some serious responses, but it mostly failed because people seemed to go crazy.
Finally, there is no reason for four people to call me insulting, homophobic, horrible, stupid, unimaginative, insulting, cruel, dimwitted, ignorant, juvenile, petty, pea-brained, lame, evil, selfish, power-hungry tyrant, willfully ignorant, self-righteous obscurantist, awful, casual hating, and a sniggering idiot.
I believe that humor is a powerful force. It is uniquely human, lifting us in good times and sustaining us through the bad. Humor provides intellectual stimulation and relief from stress. Wordplay is a very important type of humor for many of us on Wordie, although surprisingly large numbers of us don't really seem to get the jokes.
If a post strikes you as unamusing or even offensive, there is no reason to attack the poster. Maybe you misunderstood what was going on, maybe the poster meant something different, perhaps some historical If you truly feel the need to say something, a polite comment such as "This seems somewhat offensive to me. Are you sure you want to phrase it like that?" This will go a lot further than ad hominem attacks.
"People are offended by 'gay' and 'retarded', even when you don't mean them in their literal sense, so this word neatly gets around that."
No. I disagree. Gaytarded is a awful word, with its double whammy of casual hatred. If you use it in conversation, you probably won't avoid offense -- you'll more likely come off as a sniggering idiot.
I agree, unsurprisingly, with rt and plethora. Not brilliant. And definitely not cool. Try stupid, unimaginative, insulting, cruel, dimwitted, ignorant, juvenile, petty, pea-brained, lame. Need I go on?
What is it with the utter glee some people seem to have in finding new ways to insult people who have done nothing wrong? It is one thing to come up with clever ways to put down evil, selfish, power-hungry tyrants or willfully ignorant self-righteous obscurantists, but why rejoice in words that demean whole classes of people on the basis of their ethnicity, religion, heritage, sexuality, gender, or physical or mental limitations?
And then there's the pitiful excuse that "you don't mean them in their literal sense" when you use the word gay to mean "stupid" or "woeful." When my grandfather called Brazil nuts "nigger toes" he didn't mean it in the literal sense, but it was still offensive. When arson occurs at a struggling nightclub and people say it must be "Jewish lightning", they don't mean that literally but it's still offensive. If I went around calling every manifestation of ignorance "seanahanic", I wouldn't be referring to our friend literally, but he probably would not be happy about it.
Sorry for the rant, but I guess I expect people, especially people who love words, to use their brains.